Sep 192016
 

In March, before the Equinox, and as the moon opened to fullness, I had an experience that is basically inexpressible because of its power and because of its commonness. I sensed the moment the seasons shifted as the moon rose over a river filling with spring’s ice floes.

To convey a glimpse into the mystery of that moment, I’ll say I encountered Persephone, the Goddess of Greek myth who is kidnapped by Hades to serve as the Queen of the Underworld, welcoming the dead, and mourned by her mother Demeter, whose grief brings winter. Persephone’s seasonal visit to her mother awakens Demeter’s joy and brings the bounty of spring and summer. Most often Persephone is depicted as a beautiful maiden either being kidnapped by her husband or returning to her mother.

But the Persephone I encountered was a weathered woman climbing and clawing her way out of the Underworld through the dirt of earth. She used her Underworld crown as a plough and carried in her pockets letters from the Dead to their beloveds still living. (You can read more in my March newsletter.)

Persephone’s secret story is the story of her as Traveler and Messenger, the one who twice yearly, millennia after millennia, makes a journey between the worlds when the night and day stand in balance.

persephone-mandala

Fall Mandala with Persephone from the Dark Goddess Tarot

In each world, she has loves and responsibilities. She must prepare for both departure and arrival at this time of year. She sadly says goodbye to some while anticipating reunion with others.

What calls Persephone from one world to the next? How does she know when to begin her preparations? Last Friday as I stood under the September harvest moon in an orchard watching Goddesses Descending, it came to me. Of course. The moon is Persephone’s signal and guide.

In spring, the days of the growing moon from new to full closest to the Equinox set her on her journey back to earth. The days of harvest moon’s descent invite her to depart.

We are in the days of Persephone Descending. As the moon moves from full, through the Equinox, and into the dark moon days at September’s end, Persephone prepares, Persephone descends.

Perhaps you feel the weight of this time as she grows heavy. And if you feel it, too,you might consider your heaviness in another light, a lunar light. This heavy time brings a dark gift of attuning to the Divine, to the eternal cycles. The trees know this as they let down their leaves in fluttering surrender. Perhaps you may take the tree as your spiritual director.  

And as our perspective on this descent time shifts, we can open to opportunity, have a more expansive view. Recognize that our loss of Persephone brings a boon for the Dead. She is their Queen and comfort who loves them. She is the Traveler who has been away but now returns with new stories and gifts.

You can help Persephone make her reunion with the Dead. You can send gifts and stories along with Her. You can write letters to the Dead.

It may seem strange. You may doubt your letter can travel such a long distance. But just the act of writing and sending the letter might heal your heart.

I am writing letters in these days and offer these ideas to spark your own letter writing rituals. You might consider:

  • Who do you want to write to? Joining in conversation with the boundaryless there is no limited to the possibility. You can write to those you knew in life and those you didn’t. Your beloved dead. The ancestors. A long-dead writer who inspired you. Your departed pets. Make a list.
  • How will you send the message? An aerogram. A drug-store card. Leaves of petals to send without words but infused with love. You might match your form to speak most deeply to the one with which you want to communicate.
  • When will you send it? You can send your letters along as you write them or wait for the dark moon days of September 28 and 29. Any of these days as the moon moves from full to dark are the times of Persephone Descending.
  • How will you send your letters? Burying your messages in the earth is appropriate. Persephone can gather them up as she makes to the Underworld. But follow your inspiration. Maybe there is another story of life’s cycles that inspires you so you use a method that aligns with that wisdom. If water beckons you, send your notes on streams down to the sea. Light your letter on fire and watch the spark rise to heaven. Let leaves lift it into the all surrounding air. You can’t do this incorrectly.
  • How will you thank your messenger? Don’t forget to express your gratitude to Persephone or the One who helps you deliver your letter. You might say a prayer of praise, make an offering, or dedicate a positive action to their name.  

Will you receive a reply?  Well, the universe is full of echoes and all kinds of communication. I have received messages from the Dead and I’m not the only one. Your letter is unlikely to be returned as a letter so you might tend your openness to different kinds of communication in ways such as these:

  • Take time away from the demands of the living. It’s noisy here in the living world so just as you would step with your cell phone out of a crowded room to better hear the person on the other end, step out of the daily. Dedicate some time to ritual, communing with the dark, walking in nature. Sometimes go alone This gives you a better chance of hearing. But remember to walk in balance along this path; you do still belong in the land of the living.
  • Honor the communal celebrations of the Dead. The first half of November brings sacred and secular remembrances of the dead: Samhain, All Souls and Saints Day, the Day of the Dead, Veterans Day. The shortest days of the year as the Solstice approaches invite us to Wait with the Dark and in the quiet hear the numinous. Or perhaps you have to wait until Persephone Rises again in spring, bringing letters from the dead in her pockets.
  • Remove this waiting for a response from the work of the rational. What you are going to do is not rational and is outside the bounds of all we can assert with certainty here in the earthly world. Don’t try to make your listening fit inside these walls. You don’t have to give up the rational as you live your daily life- we need it – but you don’t apply it to your waiting for a response to your letter.
  • Listen slant. The poet Emily Dickinson said “tell it slant,” counseled that messages of Truth if too bright can blinds us. The Dead no longer speak as we do, perhaps are even forgetting the way of language with all its limits. They will reach out to you in unusual ways, in slant ways. Through a song that plays on the radio when you are thinking of them. Through the things they left behind found just at a moment that gives meaning. Through a revelation of hawk or cat or rainbow. From a rational world perspective you can never be sure from where the message comes, but when inspiration moves your heart, always take the gift it brings.  

 

If you are looking for support for your listening, my Winter Solstice-hinged seasonal ritual begins with Waiting with the Dark at the end of November. Be sure to sign up for my list to receive the latest news about how this ritual can support your seeking.  

Dec 232014
 

Each week I pull Tarot cards to inspire practice that cultivates soul wisdom for readers of the blog as a group using the Gaian Tarot.  (If you want to read more about the process, check out Sacred Practices of the Gaian Tarot: The 3 P’s).You are invited to use the cards below to inspire your practice, and, if you like, share your reflections in the comments.  You are also free to draw your own cards and share them in the comments.

Gaian 4-builderPATH:  Use Pile 1 / Majors and Aces to pull a card for the question:  What path would it best serve us to walk this week? THE BUILDER  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • Bringing shape to the bounty and creativity of earth.
  • Creating solid, orderly, and beautiful structures to support harmony between people as well as between the human and other-than-human world.
  • The Green Man (shown at the base of the pillar), a male aspect of Divinity seen wearing a mask of leaves in indigenous European traditions and also connected to Osiris, the Egyptian God of the underworld and regeneration, who is portrayed with green skin.

gaian five-waterPRACTICE:  Use Pile 2 / numbered cards for this question:  What practice(s) will best serve us to move along this path this week?  FIVE OF WATER  invites us to practices such as …

  • Be still.
  • Tune into what you are feeling, even if it is difficult. Acknowledge the difficult feeling and let it flow, perhaps with actual tears or the symbolic pouring of water.
  • Anniversarial grieving and setting out the Chalice of Remembrance. This is a beautiful ritual described by Caitlín Matthews in The Celtic Spirit. At a holiday meal or special time in this season, all present drink from a liquid-filled glass and than place it with some liquid left before a picture of the one who has died. All then speak to the beloved departed. The remaining liquid is left overnight with a candle burning and then poured on the earth the next morning. “In this way, the anniversary is marked, the mourning shared, and the circle of love reunited,” writes Caitlín.

Gaian explorer-earthPOSTURE:  Use Pile 3 / People cards for a question such as:  What attitudes and behaviors will be most helpful to undertake this practice and walk with path?  EXPLORER OF EARTH  invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  • Practicing reverence for the Earth by living close to the heart of nature.
  • Grounding yourself fully in the earth so you can listen for what is below the surface or coming from Spirit realm.
  • Pausing to pay attention to quieter and smaller messages that may offer great gifts.
  • Recognizing and using your awareness of the Earth around you and your own body as a source of wisdom and guidance.

OVERALL MUSINGS: And this week, too, the cards offer wisdom wonderfully aligned with this week’s holidays and astrological happenings. The Explorer of Earth is at home in the earthy, determined sign of Capricorn that we just entered; plenty of support here for planning for a great new year and cultivating hope with legs. The Green Man represented in the Builder invites us to celebrate masculine deity, perhaps in the form of the baby boy Jesus or the Holly King who is sometimes seen in a woodsy version of Santa Clause.  Merriment abounds!  But the Five of Water reminds us that this is also a season of loss and a time for remembrance; those we once celebrated with have left us. Instead of covering up this pain with false happiness, we can listen to our grief, seek the departed, and see again the light of connection. Then we will know a joy that is strong and true because it is woven from the  three threads of merriment, sorrow, and ever renewing love. Merry Everything to you in this season!

[If this post offers you soul nurture, you might want to be on my e-news list to receive seasonal-inspired Tarot content around the time of the new moon and often a gift on the full moon.  Just click the Sign Up button to the right.]

 

Sep 292014
 

Each week I pull Tarot cards to inspire practice that cultivates soul wisdom for readers of the blog as a group using the Gaian Tarot.  (If you want to read more about the process, check out Sacred Practices of the Gaian Tarot: The 3 P’s).You are invited to use the cards below to inspire your practice, and, if you like, share your reflections in the comments.  You are also free to draw your own cards.

gaian 15-bindweedPATH:  Use Pile 1 / Majors and Aces to pull a card for the question:  What path would it best serve us to walk this week? BINDWEED  invites us to walk this week on pathways of  …

  • Meeting the shadow (, i.e. the parts of ourselves that we reject and don’t want to acknowledge) as a first step toward integrating it more fully into your understanding of yourself.
  • Acknowledging where you are stuck and then holding that place with compassion.
  • Attending to the places inside you that feel dark or heavy. You can offer them attention, perhaps listening for the wisdom being offered from here, before you try to fix them.

gaian nine-airPRACTICE:  Use Pile 2 / numbered cards for this question:  What practice(s) will best serve us to move along this path this week?  NINE OF AIR  invites us to practices such as …

  • Grief work for both individual and planetary losses.  Joanna Macy‘s Work that Reconnects is a wisdom resource for deep work here.
  • Work with Mellissa Lucia’s Oracle of Initiation, where guardian beings of light and of earth show us “the way to our rainbows in the dark, the paradox of our greatest gifts hidden within our shadows.”
  • Releasing your difficult emotions into the Earth. I’ve experienced Starhawk‘s meditations  where she tells you that you can send all your difficult emotions through into the Earth Mother because She composts it; can transform all things. Starkhawk offers a meditation in which a grounding chord sent down from the base of your spine allows you to release all your grief into the earth.

gaian-guardian-firePOSTURE:  Use Pile 3 / People cards for a question such as:  What attitudes and behaviors will be most helpful to undertake this practice and walk with path?   GUARDIAN OF FIRE invites you to follow your path and practices with attitudes of …

  • Coaxing the gifts that might be hidden more deeply to emerge.
  • Compassion for others and for yourself.
  • Courage to stand in the dark and call forth the light.

OVERALL MUSINGS:  As I was preparing the practice suggestions, I was struck by how many deep and wise resources there are to support us in times of difficulty and grief.  We are supported no matter how challenged we feel.  This wisdom is built – unconsciously, or perhaps this is better said as serendipitously – into the Bindweed card. Although Joanna Powell Colbert designed the birds to be starlings and represent a problem of invasive species, numerous clients and people who work with the deck have seen these birds as protectors who are always there whether they are seen or not. The appearance of She Who Watches in the 9 of Air reinforces this message. The spirit figure in the clouds is She Who Watches over all offering love and compassion.

Sep 032014
 

When the one whose life is intertwined with yours dies, the tides take you. Carry you out to sea, send you shifting into the Bay of Fundy.

This trough at the crumbling end of a mountain chain funnels first the sea to fill and fill in a 50 foot rise of water. This is your inundation. Shore leaves you – and perspective. Then even water leaves you. Tides have their own give and take; every basin, its own rhythm.

Now you are in the flow of mud, the heaviness of it, red-tinged, slows fingers and feet. After a time, you rouge your lips and breasts with the bottom of the ocean.  Streak it into your hair.

You don’t call water back but it comes, following the moon. Yes, the moon is its necessity and greater than you.

Floated to a further shore and still the tide is turning. Deposits you among sculptures made from erosion of water and surrender of sandstone. They remind you of nothing human.  You feel less alone.

Hopewell Rocks

Hopewell Rocks. Photo of a photo by John Laux.

Learn More: The Sierra Club’s Naturalists Guides introduce the ecology of a region.  Reading from their The North Atlantic Coast: Cape Cod to Newfoundland (Sierra Club Books, 1981) by Michael and Deborah Berrill informed this piece.

Reflection Questions:

  • What are the gifts of the grief of water?
  • What can observing the ocean teach me about how to be with my own grief?  How can it help me to support others in grief?
  • Contemplate how the water changes the land at its edges.  How might you let yourself be changed by your own flow and the tides of your life?  What cost might there be? What beauty might be revealed?

Contemplative Practice:  Plan a pilgrimage to the water.  The Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park  in New Brunswick on the Bay of Fundy is a most worthy place for a special pilgrimage. But you don’t have to go farm from your where you live. Joanna Powell Colbert is an ocean lover who offers you guidance for turning any journey into a pilgrimage.

 

Aug 062013
 

Heal:  From the Old English hælan, meaning cure; save; make whole, sound and well. 

Then to mend from a significant loss is possible.  The pain that comes with the loss can not be ignored, but must be unraveled, met, knit into new form.  The new form must be put on rather than put away because it is undeniable part of you now.

Reading the literature of grief there is a strand that seems to say, “You will always be broken now.”  This message doesn’t invite me to heal.  I want:

You have been cracked open and through these cracks the light will enter.  Some day you will be whole again.  No, not as you were before, but in a new way.

I hold a vision that I can heal after my loss:  the death of my partner John in a car accident last November.  This journey to wholeness may take the rest of my life; healing may not be a goal with an end point, but a continual process.  Still I seek it as a worthwhile destination.

The Tarot is a guide for me on this journey.  My years of study and play with the cards and their symbols offer me ready access to the world’s wisdom’s traditions.  They stimulate my ability to see signs in the natural world, find meaning in images, and pay attention to synchronicities out there in the every day world.  They help me find new patterns when the pattern I thought was in place fell apart.

I want to share some stories from my experiences with these healing images.  Perhaps it will help you to see how images can be part of your healing journey.

I could start the story in many places, perhaps talk about all the years of daily practice, of Tarot workshops, of developing a relationship with the Tarot, but to align with my theme of image I’ll start with something concrete.

I’ll start with a naughty necklace.

The Naughty Necklace

For my 40th birthday John gave me a present:  Tarot wise woman Rachel Pollack.  Well, what he really gave me was a private class with her. We went over to Rhinebeck and I had a deep dive into the four worlds of the Kabbalah and worked with her Shining Tribe deck (a long time favorite and spiritual practice deck for me).  At the end of the session, Rachel brought out some of the necklaces she was starting to make with pendants picked up on her travels.

I was attracted to the necklace with a pendant from the Danish National Museum, even though it was one of the plainer ones.  I didn’t really know much about the Viking symbology of the pendant.  Were they bird people?  But I was attracted to them; they could have been on a card from the Shining Tribe, which draws on indigenous and ancient imagery from across the globe.

Naughty Necklace Wide

I bought the necklace and wore it frequently. Until it broke.

I was standing in the coffee shop and for no apparent reason, the beads suddenly streamed down around me.  I gathered them up.  This happened just a few weeks before Readers Studio, a Tarot conference that Rachel and I both go to.  Rachel said to bring the necklace along.  She took it home for a few days to her necklace workshop and it was repaired in a snap.

All was well until a few weeks before the next Readers Studio when, once again, the beads streamed down for no apparent reason.

I began to think that this naughty necklace wanted to spend time with Rachel.  It had a personality of its own and the ability to make very direct communication.

I was amused.

Death

The police officer at the end of the telephone line said, “He didn’t make it.”

Thirty-six hours later I was on a plane to Montana where John had been living while working on a project for the Biomimicry Institute.  I was going to claim his body, do a memorial circle with his co-workers, see the crash site, deal with the car, and clean out the apartment where he’d been living.  I had five days.

I’d grabbed my Shining Tribe Tarot before I left the house for the airport. I didn’t have a plan for the Tribe, but I just wanted it with me.

In the middle of those days of pain and pressure, I found a few moments of meditation.  I couldn’t ask the Tarot a clear question.  I just said, “Help,” and pulled the Six of Birds.

Six of Birds

I felt an immediate sense of relief.  I didn’t have any intellectual understanding of the card.  I just received this image as a gift of solace coming from the Greater Than.

Later that day, my sister and I went to the crash site.  One of John’s co-workers lived near by and guided us there.  She took us the long way around so we could see that the last images John saw were of the Bitterroot Valley’ beauty.  As we came over a hill and started down, a red-tailed hawk rose up and seemed to lead the cars for a while.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the hawk.  He eventually turned east, veered toward the Sapphire Mountains, blended in with the dark horizon.

Words of understanding for the Six of Birds came to me then.  I saw the red sleeping woman as John in death – when I’d seen his body it was so like he was just a sleep and could be shaken awake – and the bird as his Soul taking flight.  No longer in the body, he could go where he needed to go.

I had a feeling of John going “home.”  Though home was no longer a physical place we would share, this comforted me.  It helped me to leave Montana and head east, to come home to Massachusetts.

The Hawk and The Crow

A friend brought a packet on grief to John’s memorial circle with a helpful list of normal signs of grief.  Along with the signs that might come more quickly to mind (crying, wanting the person who has died back), there were less obvious reactions including being angry with the dead -around any unresolved issues or even just for dying.

Anger was not the first place I visited on my grief journey, but it waited patiently for me, digging down deep into my body.  I might have let that anger fester if it hadn’t been for my Reiki sessions at Groundings.  Not only did the sessions move my energy and surface the hidden, but they also invited me into a trance-state where I dreamed without sleeping and images from photos, from Tarot cards, from the natural world mixed together, moved with purpose, and invited me come with them and see that my grief story could evolve.  Birds again came as helpers.

Hawks are fierce hunters, but the caw of the crow has its own power.  One the day that we scattered John’s ashes, a hawk circled high up in the clear April sky.  We watched without a word.  In the silence, a crow swooped in to harry the hawk.  The hawk flew higher and higher toward the sun. The crow pursued, keeping up the cawing.  We thought she was protecting her nest.

In a Reiki session I felt myself become crow chasing John as hawk.  I cawed and scratched and chased.  He circled.  This went on for weeks.  We had it out up there in my imaginal sky without the words and actions that would have moved us through our rift if he had been alive.  I couldn’t ignore this hurt, but had to figure out a way to go – or should I say fly – through it in some way.

And then we rested.  These were moments of truce but not yet resolution. I drew the Two of Birds multiple times in those weeks.

Two of Birds

We stood back-to-back.  The snake around our legs gave me hope.  The snake is a symbol of transformation. Sooner or later, it will have to shed its skin.

Return of the Naughty Necklace

One Sunday morning I lay in my bed as the sun rose.  There was a steady quiet that comes only late at night and early in the morning on my busy street.  A rasping caw broke through and there was fluttering in the leaves outside my window.  A crow sat just outside my bedroom window – chest extended, beak up – calling out.  There were no other crows around.

Crow was calling me?

I looked down at my bedside table to see the naughty necklace.  I hadn’t worn it since before John’s death.  The first birthday that were together John had given me a necklace with a little amber pendant.  I’d put it on to go to Montana and had worn it ever since.

But now I was looking at the black shining beads and the two birds on the pendant facing each other, embracing.  Some clicked inside and it came to me,

I can put this on.  We can face each other. The love between us – inerasable from the past, eternally present, feeding the future – can flow again.

Naughty Necklace One

Thinking around the grief process has shifted from stages to tasks to be circled through.  An ultimate goal is to find a new way to relate to the lost loved; a way that both keeps a connection and allows the griever to move forward in their own life.  My journey with the help of the healing images has allowed me to change integrate, release, and re-form through working in the realm of the imagination.

I was surprised to find this change manifesting on the outside as well.  Soon after I started wearing the necklace again, a new acquaintance admired it and asked, “Is that an owl?”  Hmm, when I let go of my idea of there being two figures, I can see the owl eyes.  There is no longer separation.  The two are one.  And I am now the one who moves forward in wholeness.

And Finally, Rubies

The second time the Naughty Necklace broke, I lost some beads and Rachel added rough rubies into the pattern.  Little points of red break up the lines of black beads.

The red of the ruby carries a whole host of meanings.  Red is the color of life-giving blood and when there is prick or a break you bleed.  Red is the color of love and when you love there is both joy and the possibility of loss.  Red is the color of the base chakra, the energy center that connects you to and grounds you in earth.  Red is flow and stability, a gift and a risk.

The breaks changed the necklace.  John’s death changed me.  But we are not broken now.  We are just today different.

 

[Note:  If you have experienced the death of a loved one or major loss and need support for your own grief process, I am trained as a spiritual mentor.  Sessions can be arranged where you tell your story and I listen with the “ears of my heart”.  The storytelling and listening are central, but additional supports used in session include questions, Tarot work, stories from ancient traditions, nature awareness, and writing/art making prompts.  I choose the word mentor because it implies not an expert, but one who is out a little bit ahead of you on a particular path.  I’ve been on the path of creative morning since November 2012.  Please contact me with your questions, we’ll see what fits your needs, and figure out payment possibilities.]